Take a look around your offices or plant: Those people you see, your employees? They’re your past, your present and, to some extent, your future.
And that 2013 crop of graduates about to come knocking on your door? They're really your future – your opportunity to bring new ideas, perspectives and skills (many as-yet undiscovered) into your business, if you're willing to take a chance. One of them may someday produce an industry game-changer for you. You just don't know which one it will be.
A column in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month generated a lot of buzz. The headline was "Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won't Hire You." Amid all the laudatory and encouraging graduation speeches that have gone forth this spring, it was a real downer. Meanwhile, CNN weighed in with the obligatory story about college grads settling for minimum-wage jobs and jobs below their theoretical qualifications.
Either way, the two articles argue, college didn't prepare these new members of the workforce for the "real" world.
Time was, college prepared you for life, and then your employer – maybe in an occupation related to your major, maybe not – set you on your path to a productive career. The sheepskin proved your staying power and suggested there was now a certain amount of polish on your adolescent rough edges; it said you knew how to focus and apply yourself to reach a goal.
What went wrong? Employers now expect new hires to walk in "job ready" and often can't afford the time it takes for the novices to traverse the new learning curve. Yet expecting college to be a very expensive form of vocational training is unrealistic. As this video that went viral almost before the term "viral" was common illustrates, when it comes to technology and change, "We are living in exponential times." In other words, by the time a tech or science degree program is completed, half of what a student learns is obsolete.
Or maybe in some fields, going to college is unnecessary? David Karp dropped out of school to pursue his obsession with computers. Yahoo is about to make him a millionaire about 200 times over.
Then there's this story, found and tweeted by reporter Jason Scott last week, which also questions whether everyone bright needs to go to college.
But getting back to those new grads who did, and all those fresh out of tech school or even high school: If you ask yourself how you got where you are today, Mr. or Ms. Hiring Manager/Business Owner/Executive, I'd bet the honest answer is that somebody gave a young kid – you – a chance. And maybe even gambled a bit -- a lot, you say? -- when they hired you.
The week ahead
In the May 31 issue of the Business Journal, reporter Jim Ryan continues his in-depth look at workforce readiness challenges in Pennsylvania. In case you missed it, the first installment (in the May 17 issue) offers up some hard numbers on the debate regarding drug abuse and employers' inability to hire. (Subscription required.)
For a short holiday week, it's a busy one in the midstate.
Tuesday: Mechanicsburg chamber AM Strategies ... for Business Success: 8:30-10:30 p.m., Silver Spring Township
Free Webinar: "Who's In Charge of Your Company's Disaster Plan? The Dollars and Sense of the Right Reaction," 2-3 p.m. Central Penn Business Journal.
Lancaster chamber New Investor Orientation: 4-5 p.m. East Hempfield Township.
West Shore chamber mixer: 5-7 p.m, Camp Hill.
Lancaster chamber mixer: 5-7 p.m.
SCORE Lancaster Simple Steps 3 — Marketing Your Product, Service & Company: 6-9 p.m.
York County Economic Alliance Economics Club Breakfast: 7:15-8:30 a.m., "The 2014 Can-Am Police-Fire Games and the Economic Impact of Tourism in York County."
Pa. departments of General Services and Public Welfare, Third Annual Small Business Expo: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Harrisburg
Thursday: Lebanon Valley Young Professionals "Last Thursday" Mixer & Meeting: 5-7 p.m.
Mechanicsburg chamber Business Leaders Coffee Hour: 7:45-9 a.m., Hampden Township
SEDA-Council of Governments, Government Contracting Seminar, 9 a.m.-noon Harrisburg; topic: Proposal Preparation & Submission; free
Harrisburg Regional chamber, workshop: 9-11 a.m., Lemoyne, Developing a Comprehensive Marketing Plan.
Friday: Harrisburg Regional chamber, Ladies Who Lead: Inside & Out, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Harrisburg
NOTE: The Lebanon Valley chamber Public Affairs Luncheon with Ronald J. Tomalis, special adviser to the governor on higher education, scheduled for Thursday has been cancelled.
Despite the gloom and doom, trends do indicate that job prospects this graduation season are continuing to brighten.
And I don't know about you, but I always get a kick out of the way kids see themselves in the future. YouTube brings us everything from advertisements and serious TED talks to this little gem from an unidentified elementary school's "Room Seven."
While many today question the value of a college degree in light of its expense and the likelihood of debt it can bring, there is no question that the person who stops learning or lets skills erode will struggle to stay employed, much less get ahead. Here's a link to the Business Journal's 2012 Higher Education guide, which looked at a number of programs and options for adult learners in the midstate.